(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) ABU DHABI " The beauty of short storytelling is that it takes plenty of imagination and art to make the magic happen. And it will be an uplifting experience from October 14 to 22, as the Abu Dhabi Film Festival (ADFF) gets underway with plenty of short films on offer.
From a record of 1,200 submissions, 44 films have been selected to compete for the Black Pearl Award. They are all under 35 minutes, from 25 countries as varied as Romania, Belgium, USA, Tunisia and Iran.
Short films suffer from some kind of snobbery. Like with the marathon, which people believe is harder than a sprint, or that a novel is more difficult to write than a short story, people think feature films are a lot harder to create than short films, said Peter Scarlet, director of ADFF.
The chosen 44 will compete in narrative, documentary, Arab World, animated and student categories.
The five member jury led by Iranian filmmaker Shirin Neshat will crown seven films with prizes ranging from US 5,000 (Dh 18,300) to US 25,000 (Dh 91,800). This is a rare opportunity for short films to win cash and to be screened for a large audience.
Short films offer a level of artistic freedom that is irresistible even to famous filmmakers and actors. The fact that many of them are more than happy to get involved in short films for next to none financial rewards is a telling sign of what an intriguing format it is, added Scarlet.
Indeed, it is rare for a short film to be watched or to make money anywhere outside a film festival, and the ADFF is having not one, but two competitions for shorts " the main festival and the Emirates Competition (EC). EC, previously known as the Emirates Film competition, has now been integrated into the festival itself.
The same announcement had been made in the past two years (when ADFF used to be known as Middle East International Film Festival), but somehow the EC ran parallel to the main festival movies, and this is the change this October.
We will no longer screen the EC films separately. We will mix them with short films from other countries, to attract a varied audience, Ali Al Jabri, head of EC, told Khaleej Times.
The EC, which includes films from throughout the Gulf, has its own set of awards and its own set of judges, headed by Tunisian film director Nouri Bouzid.
We had a large number of submissions this year " 143 short films, revealed Al Jabri.
The entries were narrowed down to 47 by filmmakers from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain. They will compete in four categories " narrative, documentary, student narrative and student documentary " for Black Pearl Awards and cash awards ranging from US 2,700 (Dh 10,000) to US 9,500 (Dh 35,000).
Indeed, in the past years we have had feature films competing in the EC, but according to festival rules we need a minimum of five full length movies to compete. This year we dont have them, explained Al Jabri.
What EC does have and what came as a pleasant surprise is that a large number of films came from Saudi Arabia. And nine of them got selected.
We really didnt expect this and it shows that the cinema scene (forbidden in Saudi Arabia) is improving, he pointed out. Also, for the first time we had the largest number of women filmmakers " 14.
As for Emirati films alone, there are six of them in the short narrative category, another six in the short documentary category and 17 in the student categories (narrative and documentary).
Filmmaker Ahmed Al Mutawa and his film American Arab will be the only Emirati film to be screened in the main short film competition of ADFF.